CBT For Addiction

In the course of your journey to recovery, there are many options for therapy and treatments to help you on your way. One of these is cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT. This form of therapy has become popular in recent years due to its proactive approach toward changing behavior.

For many people who don’t care for or haven’t seen results from conventional talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) provides a more action-based approach to change. You’ll work to become aware of your own biases, thought patterns, and patterns that aren’t serving you.

At Bayview Recovery Center in San Diego, California, we provide addiction therapy services such as CBT for addiction to help people with substance use disorders (SUDs) change the way they think, feel, and behave.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is, in essence, a form of therapy that teaches people how to reassess how they approach problems. It focuses on the here and now, with emphasis on how someone can recognize their existing patterns and adjust them to better achieve what they want in life. An individual’s actions can be outlined as a triangle, with each point connected to and influencing the other:

Every person has pre-subscribed thought patterns that they’re not fully aware of. They can come from school, religious beliefs, or things you heard your parents say growing up. How you choose to think about the world (including your thoughts about yourself) influences how you interpret different situations and decide how to react.

This refers to not just religious beliefs, but fundamental beliefs on how the world works and what your place is within it. This includes expectations about how people (including yourself) should behave. If someone isn’t acting in a way you believe is appropriate, that will influence how you regard them and their relationship with you.

An individual acts within the world based on how and what they believe will happen, as well as what options are possible. Any limitations within thoughts and beliefs will highly influence what actions a person chooses to take. If the cycle continues, those actions will often reinforce what they think and believe.

How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT works much in the same way as classic talk therapy but with a few notable differences. The emphasis is not to work out solutions simply by talking. Individuals are taught to be aware of their patterns and work to break unhealthy cycles.

CBT’s Three Levels of Cognition

How a person thinks about things, a.k.a. cognition, is defined as having three parts within cognitive-behavioral therapy, This is called the cogniive triangle. The components include:

Within the thoughts and experiences we have every day, our automatic thoughts are those that come up without being consciously provoked. They may be reactions conditioned into our heads from a young age, patterns learned over time (and interpreted by the brain to be helpful), or informed biases based on past interactions. If you’re more likely to have negative automatic thoughts, you may have more trouble opening up to the possibility of positive outcomes.

Within patterns of thought, there are often disadvantageous attitudes that can cut off the mind’s methods of assessing something objectively. These attitudes can be self-discounting, catastrophizing, or otherwise limiting to the individual’s ability to make decisions. These often relate to how the individual regards others, such as anticipating others’ reactions (“he’s just going to say no if I ask”) or a tendency to blame oneself for others’ actions (“if I had bugged her about the assignment, she wouldn’t have been late in completing it”). These distortions highly affect how you interpret information from the world and hamper your ability to make good decisions.

Divided into core beliefs and intermediate beliefs, this level of cognition is full of self-imposed rules of how the world works and how we should act within it. For example, you may have the core belief “I am unlovable,” which translates to the intermediate belief that “any kindness or love I’m shown shouldn’t be trusted.” Analyzing and interrogating these beliefs is a key part of opening up the mind to change.

Working within a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy mindset means that you’ll be learning (and working on) how those three factors work within your mind and dictate how you act in the world.

Goals/Principles of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The ideas behind cognitive-behavioral therapy are all centered around the individual learning how to adapt their thought and belief patterns so that they can help themselves make decisions that best benefit them. Depending on the individual, this can take shape as a few goals:

Many people fall into addiction because certain emotions or problems feel too overwhelming in the moment. But numbing (or avoidance) through addiction only makes problems worse. No problems are being solved, only delayed. CBT helps individuals learn how to solve problems directly, helping to cut out the desire to use substances to delay the process.

Many choices we make throughout the day are automatic, with no conscious thought or motivation behind them. This can be very dangerous for addiction. CBT forces the individual to slow down and think through their reasoning, so they make a conscious choice knowing all possible consequences.

Everyone has beliefs about themselves that circulate through their heads, silently influencing their thoughts and decisions. It can be something from childhood, such as “you’re too demanding” or “what you feel doesn’t matter.” Maybe a bad manager at your first job told you “You’re terrible at learning new things.” CBT helps to identify those beliefs and speak to them so that they eventually have less influence.

Lots of people fall into substance abuse because it’s tied to their daily routine (for example, going to the bar with friends after work). CBT helps to identify the patterns that may lead to relapse and help to avoid them. Maybe you can still go to the bar with friends, but scheduling an exercise class that excites you will motivate you to not drink while you’re there.

Benefits of CBT for Addiction

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the thought patterns and beliefs that eventually lead to actions. When someone uses a substance, they feel a sense of positive reinforcement, by way of the “high.” As a result, their sense of learning and reinforcement of certain behaviors can be highly skewed.

CBT is about getting control back, using a variety of methods:

  • A tactics-first approach that plans out reactions to situations that may cause relapse.
  • Assessing situations objectively, keeping existing distortions in mind.
  • The ability to make choices in difficult situations, often by listing out pros and cons.
  • Assessing problems and obstacles with an attitude of self-respect as opposed to self-destruction.
  • The ability to delay gratification and distract from an addiction craving, to lessen its power over the person.
  • An enhanced ability to make clear and informed decisions, without delaying out of apprehension or difficulty.
  • Predetermined “scripts” of what to say when offered the substance of choice or when put in a potentially tempting situation.
  • An enhanced ability to develop and maintain a healthy routine, allowing for better decision-making.
  • Awareness of how to use their social network for help, whether as part of a 12-step program or in calling upon existing connections.

CBT can work in addition to other forms of therapy and often acts as a supplemental model that can aid the efforts of other techniques.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy FAQs

How does CBT work as an addiction treatment?

Individuals typically use CBT as part of a suite of treatment options, often in individual therapy but also group settings. Its focus on mindset and action-based recovery often resonates with those ready to “do the work” in recovering from their addiction.

Benefits of CBT for Addiction

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the thought patterns and beliefs that eventually lead to actions. When someone uses a substance, they feel a sense of positive reinforcement, by way of the “high.” As a result, their sense of learning and reinforcement of certain behaviors can be highly skewed.

CBT is about getting control back, using a variety of methods:

  • A tactics-first approach that plans out reactions to situations that may cause relapse.
  • Assessing situations objectively, keeping existing distortions in mind.
  • The ability to make choices in difficult situations, often by listing out pros and cons.
  • Assessing problems and obstacles with an attitude of self-respect as opposed to self-destruction.
  • The ability to delay gratification and distract from an addiction craving, to lessen its power over the person.
  • An enhanced ability to make clear and informed decisions, without delaying out of apprehension or difficulty.
  • Predetermined “scripts” of what to say when offered the substance of choice or when put in a potentially tempting situation.
  • An enhanced ability to develop and maintain a healthy routine, allowing for better decision-making.
  • Awareness of how to use their social network for help, whether as part of a 12-step program or in calling upon existing connections.

CBT can work in addition to other forms of therapy and often acts as a supplemental model that can aid the efforts of other techniques.

Is CBT for addiction covered by insurance?

cbt for addiction treatment

Yes, CBT is covered by most forms of health insurance. However, policies may differ on how many sessions are covered and/or if therapy based solely on CBT will be covered. A therapist who incorporates CBT principles into general therapy may be more extensively covered by certain policies. Check with your insurance company and individual policy to verify your coverage for definitive answers.

Learn More About Our Addiction Therapy Services

Here at Bayview Recovery Center, we provide services and recovery support for men looking to heal from their addictions. From family therapy to academic support, we’re here for you every step of the way. Our holistic approach to healing is meant to support you in your journey to sustained recovery. Reach out today to learn more.

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